Engaging Members and Supporters Through Live or Virtual Entertainment Events
Interview with Joe M. Turner
Before the pandemic, it was already the case that organizations needed creative new ways to engage with their audiences of supporters and donors. While the pandemic required us to add new tools and approaches to the mix, the need to engage and communicate changed in that it became more important, but in some ways more difficult.
During his career in the management consulting industry, Joe M. Turner worked with clients in multiple industries to help them engage and equip their various stakeholders in the changes that were being implemented to help them achieve greater success. Much of this comes down to effective storytelling and the ability to keep change advocates and agents informed, excited, and vocal.
Joe applies the art of theatrical illusion to the communication of important messages, helping leaders create events that emphasize and underline their important messages in fun and memorable ways. The use of pattern-interrupting, message-driven entertainment can be an effective way to get a message seen, remembered, and acted upon.
Joe M. Turner is a 20-year veteran corporate entertainer, keynote speaker, and emcee/meeting host. Following a management consulting career, Joe jumped headlong into professional magic, which he has performed on six continents and at thousands of venues on land and at sea — including the Magic Castle, the London Palladium, and television programs across the US, South America, and Europe. Joe’s talent, charm, and unexpected insights have put him in high demand as a keynote speaker for organizations that want to understand and create amazing experiences for customers, employees, donors, and other audiences. His solo virtual show, “Remotely Entertaining,” was recommended in The New York Times. You can find out more about him on Wikipedia, his website, or his social media: visit turnermagic.com or bio.fm/turnermagic.
For more information about Joe, go to https://turnermagic.com
Read the Interview Transcript
Hugh Ballou: Hello, everyone. This is Hugh Ballou. This episode of The Nonprofit Exchange is going to be magic. Literally magic. We have had all kinds of fun guests over the years, but this one is going to top that. It’s going to be so much fun. We have some surprises for you.
Joe M. Turner, Turner Magic, is our guest today. He knows a lot about nonprofits and a number of other topics. Joe, tell people about yourself. How did you end up doing what you do? Why do you do what you do? What’s your passion?
Joe Turner: Thank you for having me today. I for the last 20 years have worked as a professional entertainer, mostly in the corporate world but occasionally in nonprofits or colleges or cruise ships and things of that nature. I do magic. I do sleight of hand performance. I do mentalism, and sometimes large stage illusions. It’s an odd corner of the theater industry, and I love it. It’s been good to me, and it’s taken me around the world a number of times.
I came to this from a management consulting career, which seems a little odd. Before that, I worked in musical theater. Before that, I studied to be a physics teacher, so that’s what my degree is. I have an eclectic background, you might say.
The why is I have always been fascinated by seeing connections between things that other people maybe didn’t think were connected. That is one of the marks of an educated person or mind is to look for those relationships and parallelisms between things. I guess I’m compelled to explore those different talents and interests and see where they overlap and intersect and how I can use those to help people do better business or help more people or solve problems.
Hugh: You’re a “management consultant?”
Joe: I had that title at one time. There is a little bit of that that never leaves you. I was in the change management consulting practice for the firm now known as Accenture. I worked in change management, helping the people in organizations change to be more effective. We would equip them with training that we would design for the new environments, be it a new computer system or an organizational structural change, whatever the case was. We would go in and try to help them identify advocates and change agents that could help that change be successful as it went through the organization. We would design training and teach them the new skills they were going to need. That fit in with my education background.
Yeah, that is the little corner of management consulting I was in. I didn’t code all the new systems. I didn’t work in that part of things. I worked more on the HR side. How are we going to help the human beings who are experiencing change in their organization for whatever reason be ready to meet that challenge effectively?
Hugh: That’s pretty high-level work in that sector and that kind of organization. Given your background, how did you get into that, and why did you leave that?
Joe: I will confess that I had done two seasons of summer stock as a musical theater performer and musician. I play the piano and sing, so I got a couple of gigs up in New England doing summer stock. As much as I love the theater—I love musical theater more than any person should be allowed to—I did realize that while I have some talents, I don’t have the top 1% of 1% of 1% talents of people in that world. The idea that I was going to make a living in the musical theater, that was going to be a real challenge that I wasn’t sure that I was physically capable of doing. I don’t have the dance background. My range, I have a good F, but I’m not a high tenor. At any rate, I realized there were constraints on what I could do.
I went back to school after that summer. I was at Mississippi State University. I started thinking I should look at a “real job.” I went and looked for industries that would interview you no matter what your major was. At this point, I was a theater major and had a degree in education, physics and chemistry, but was working in musical theater and communication.
This consulting firm, Anderson Communication at the time, would interview you no matter what your major was. I had no idea what consulting even was. What consulting are we even talking about? The only management class I took was theater management. I read up about them. What I loved about consulting, and the parallel I saw with the theater, was consulting projects are very much like a show. You assemble a cast based on specific skills and how they fit into whatever the story is you are trying to tell. They all come together and put this thing together. When it’s over, the cast disperses. The consulting industry has a lot in common with theater. I never could envision myself sitting behind a desk for 20 or 30 or 40 years, but project to project felt like show to show to me. That’s why I was willing to go on this interview. One thing led to another. There are many stories behind that. That’s how I ended up in consulting.
I left six years later after a couple of promotions and a lot of hours and a lot of experience because by then I had married, and my daughter was two at the time. I had been fortunate to be staffed on projects in the city of Atlanta where I was based. I wrapped up a project, and they were about to send me on the road for five days a week for eight, nine, ten months. I didn’t want to miss the family side of that. That’s how I exited the consulting industry, not because I didn’t love the people and the challenge. The way it worked resonated with my performing arts gypsy part of me. But I couldn’t afford to gypsy with a two-year-old at home.
Hugh: There is a drama part of it, too.
Joe: Yeah. Sometimes more drama than you want. We all could tell jokes about the consultant who has had to stand in front of the room and tap dance. There is a lot of show biz. I don’t mean that in a negative sense. I should say there is a lot of show business and theater in business anyway.
Hugh: Yes, that’s what I was referring to, the drama at the workplace. You think you have a lot in corporate America, but our audience represents nonprofit leaders and clergy. They got drama as well.
Joe: It occurred to me along the way while I was in the consulting part of my life, magic came back into my life. I started seeing relationships between what I was doing and all of those things that you studied in 12th grade English about the structure of a play and the denouement and rising tension. All of that stuff applies to every kind of project that any organization will ever go through.
Plays are effective because we can relate to them because they feel like real life a lot of times. Maybe it’s compressed in a time frame. We all know what it’s like to have these characters around us. All the world’s a stage. We know what it’s like to interact with all of these other players and try to get our motivation accomplished.
Drama is a wonderful metaphor for real life. Because of that, things that we learn from drama can apply to the way we tell stories in real life and do projects in real life. That is not because it’s fake or artificial or hypertheatrical. It’s just because that’s how human beings work. That’s how our psychology works. We perceive the storytelling process. If we’re really good at that, then it has benefits for the way we sell products or get people to buy into our advocacy of our issue or support whatever it is we are trying to accomplish or help us along the way, whether it’s employees, students, donors, supporters. We are all on stage. We all have audiences. We are all trying to tell our stories effectively. There are wonderful lessons from the theater that can apply here.
Hugh: A lot of leaders I’ve seen get spooked by the drama and are apprehensive. If they just relaxed and paid attention to what is going on, it might be a whole new ball game.
You’re a pianist. You’re a performer, a consultant. You’re also very gifted at speaking. You’re a public speaker as well. How did you end up connecting the magic and illusionary pieces with corporate leadership? You have also done some magic with nonprofit organizations and fundraising, haven’t you?
Joe: When I first came to magic, I fell in the back door. I had been doing it for fun. The magic was just an entertainment-based thing. Not even as structured as a play or musical, but let’s have some fun together and create this emotion of astonishment or wonder or fun. That was the value that I was trying to communicate to people. That was the value I was giving to my corporate clients.
Over time, people would connect with me on LinkedIn or Facebook, and they would see that I had this consulting background or a more focused background than many others on the magic side of what I do have. They came to me first as, “Our whole meeting is about this theme. We are overcoming some teamwork challenges,” or “We have some issues with our partner organizations,” or “There has been an acquisition or merger, and there is a tension between these cultures. We are trying to focus on things we have in common.” They would come to me with a theme or problem and ask if I could integrate this idea into my magic to be a kickoff for the morning session. I didn’t take the idea to them at first. They brought the idea to me of using magic to tell a story to set a table for a particular conversation.
I went from there and found that it was a new idea. People had been using magic to communicate stories or sell products for decades, and I hadn’t seen that part of the industry. But that is where it started. “Could you do something that helps us get into this topic?” By doing that over and over, I did trade show work. Companies that were exhibiting at expos would hire me to work at their booth and use magic to draw a crowd but also communicate something about their product or service or software. Marketing events, product launches.
Over time, I realized that if I could use magic to tell a story that was handed to me by a client, why wasn’t I using it to tell the stories of the things that I’m excited about? I could tell my own stories or communicate my own messages. I had a friend who was a professional speaker in the National Speakers Association. She said, “Joe, you should be using what you do on a platform not just as entertainment but to inform and inspire and engage people around your message.” The message that I landed on was this parallelism, these lessons from the show business that can affect the way we engage our own audiences. How can you be better at what you do by learning lessons from magic and theater? It’s an odd thing, but it’s fun.
Hugh: We want to help nonprofit leaders embrace business principles. This is an adjunct principle to that. A lot of times, we look at drama in our churches and nonprofits and synagogues. What is happening is what we think is happening. There is an illusionary diversion. We get sucked up in this drama when really there is something else going on because we are not paying attention.
Joe: What I would say to that is I don’t think it’s an illusion, but I think sometimes we mistake the subplot for the plot. We get so captivated by this dramatic tension between characters. It can be easy to lose the overarching story and lose what we call the throughline of the whole experience of what we’re doing from a vision or mission perspective. I have helped organizations in fundraising situations where they come to me and there is a particular issue close to their heart. They explain to me why it’s close to their heart. That helps me get it close to my heart. I’ll work out a show or program that they can take to their audience to motivate them to support in some way, either tangibly or physical work or donations.
The process of helping me understand what they do is a lens that helps them refocus on their own throughline. It forces them to go back to what is the core goal that we’re trying to achieve? Whether it’s as a whole organization or just for this event or campaign, what is the core throughline? That is one of the things that we did back in change management days is make sure that your change agents and advocates were staying on topic and not being pulled off into the subplots.
I have worked in my own churches over the years in worship music. If there is a subject that is more controversial, friendships have been lost and wars have been waged over worship music styles. It can be difficult in a church setting to deal with that. The thing to do is try to go back to your corporates. What is it you are trying to accomplish with this? Get everyone who is on board with that to move forward. That may be a sign that some people won’t be on board with that, and that’s okay, too. Maybe they are supposed to do something else. Maybe their calling is in a different direction. It doesn’t mean it’s invalid or that yours is invalid. Sometimes, there are points on the change curve where characters change what they are doing.
To your point, I would say that it’s not the things are drama themselves. We allow the subplot to take the spotlight away from the main story. That’s where the trouble starts.
Hugh: Love it. A number of questions come to mind. We are recording this episode at what we think might be an end of a long, tough pandemic shut-in. We have had to reinvent ourselves, but we are in a thaw. Coming out of it, change management is a big deal. I heard people the other day talk about some organization, “We will be glad when we get back to normal.” I don’t think that’s ever going to happen, from my humble standpoint. I don’t think we are going to have a new normal. I think it’s going to be a new radical because we have learned a whole lot.
From where you sit and with what you do with organizations and leaders, how will that impact what you’re doing? We have nonprofit leaders and clergy watching this today. They are looking for some magic, but they are really looking for some inspiration. What do we do to get these people on board? How would you as a change management resource approach this?
Joe: Let me tell it in terms of what I had to go through last year, and then I will expand on that principle. I was on a ship performing in the South China Sea in February 2020 when the ports closed all around us, and we were at sea for almost two weeks. Did not know where we were going to end up stopping. All of our original ports were no longer available. We had no idea where we were going to land. A port opened up, and we went to Singapore, which was not part of my itinerary. I got off the ship, got on a plane, and came back to Atlanta. This is mid-February of last year, a month before everything changed here in the United States.
I did have about a month head start on thinking about what things were going to be like. Still hoping they wouldn’t, but realizing that in all likelihood something drastic was about to happen. In mid-March, everything shut down. In the course of about 36 hours, maybe 48, every event on my calendar for the rest of 2020 cancelled or postponed or just became a complete question mark. I had never used Zoom in my life. But the first meeting I went to on Zoom in the third week of March, I realized that this was a tool I was going to have to adapt to in order to be productive in some way during the rest of the year.
I launched a virtual show. I went through my repertoire. Behind these curtains lie a couple thousand books on magic and illusion and sleight of hand and mentalism. I went to the resources I had and said, “What can be effective in a box like this? What can I do in this environment that is still engaging and connects with people, where the decisions they make in real time affect what happens in the show, where I use theater as a tool?” I launched a show on April 3. I was one of the very first in my industry to do anything virtual. My show was recommended in The New York Times in May of last year. Many more amazing and groundbreaking shows than mine were developed from that time until now that make mine look like a primitive first step. But it was a first step. It was someone trying to adapt.
To draw that to something more general, I resisted the term “pivot” very much. To me, pivot implies a change of direction. I am a physics guy. If something pivots, it’s pointing in a different way. My goals had not changed. The message I wanted to convey had not changed. The skills I had had not changed yet, but the thing that motivated me to do what I do had not changed. Nonprofit goals have not changed. You didn’t pivot. The problem you were trying to solve didn’t pivot. The people you are trying to serve are still where they were. The needs they have aren’t now totally over here because of what had happened.
I resisted the term “pivot” very much and reframed it in my mind as adding lanes, not changing directions, to my highway. I had my live action and speaking and these things that were taking me toward my goal. I didn’t pivot; I added a virtual lane to what I was doing.
As far as I’m concerned, it’s just another venue. The things I do in the theater aren’t the same things I do in a boardroom. The same things I can do in a boardroom are not the same things I can do on a ship, restaurant, or on camera in Zoom. It’s another venue. That’s one of the things. Performers have to adapt to the venue. A lot of times, even in musical theater, it’s not enough to be the right actress who can create the emotion and dance the steps and hit the notes. Sometimes you also have to fit the costumes. I have to adapt. I had to fit myself to this environment by adding a lane to the services that I could offer.
The benefit for me is I didn’t add subplots. I didn’t get caught up in the pivot conversation. I was doing the same thing for the same reason. I didn’t pivot a thing; I added a lane. I think that is helpful in communicating to nonprofits through any kind of change. It’s not exactly about changing direction. It’s about changing methodology and maybe adding skills. You are not taking away from anything. You are not leaving people behind. But sometimes you have to add a lane to what you’re doing in order to continue to make progress toward what you are trying to accomplish. That is a different way to look at it.
Hugh: It’s a great way to look at it. I struggle with that myself. We were doing meaningful work. There are some things we could maybe rethink and revise. People have decided there are some committee meetings we could do on Zoom or by email.
Joe: It’s a mistake to think that everything we were doing before in the normal times is the way it should be.
Joe: This is an opportunity to make good changes, not because you have to although sometimes we did have to make some additions, but also because now that we have this other lane, maybe this is a better solution to some things that we were doing before that can now be done more effectively. Definitely a huge mindset change. You need to be able to tell that story to the people you’re serving and are helping you serve your audience to help them not chase the difficult conflict and stay focused on where is this highway taking us and why? The potholes are always going to be there. I hate to overload the metaphor, but the idea is that helps you stay focused on the most important thing.
Hugh: That was worth tuning in for, and we have more good stuff coming. Joe, let’s think about some of your interactions in the past. We have people watching who are professional fundraising executives who have had a career of fundraising for organizations. When you and I spoke recently, you talked about some fundraising events you did. What does that look like? What is the magic of doing that for a fundraising venue? It’s like going to a wine tasting, and you hit people up for a donation after getting them in a good mood. Tell them what it’s like and how it works.
Joe: I did some pre-Zoom obviously. But I have done some more recently in the last year just using Zoom. I do mostly corporate work, meaning I pack everything I need into a couple of suitcases that I can fly as checked baggage and go anywhere in the world. I don’t have a bus and truck tour that has to back up into a theater. I can set up my show in a hotel ballroom or event space or church auditorium or fellowship hall. I have been in any kind of strange restaurant room. Because of that flexibility, I have very low overhead. You don’t have to rent special facilities or get special lights.
What it looks like for organizations to work with me is what we’re going to do is use the event. Going to a show is the fundraiser. That is the experience. We are going to give them an experience that they can enjoy, that they can bring people to. Magic has universal appeal. It crosses language barriers, cultural barriers. I have produced a show here in Atlanta since 2014. We have every kind of person in there. It’s all the same. They can’t believe that physics suddenly took a break.
I work with organizations. What we do is I am going to perform a show. Some of the moments in that show are going to be designed to spotlight specific points of your story. I am going to work with your team to figure out what those are going to be. If there are specific people we need to highlight, if there is a video we need to show, we can insert those moments into the overall experience. But even if we don’t make a pitch for an additional donation, at the very least, they bought a ticket, and I am going to get paid out of that money. This is a way that we can share the money that is raised for that event. They get money without having to invest in any kind of software system. They can use their own things they already do. They use their own communications, social media to promote this event. It can happen on Zoom, and no one has to rent a theater. Or we can do it in real life, and we can do it at your venue or a school or some other place that is willing to donate the space. There is a lot of different paths it can take as to how we make it happen. But the idea is the show itself becomes this experience that people have bought and paid for that generates its own revenue.
We can use that to point toward a fundraising campaign or recognize donors that need some spotlight, and we want to show some love and gratitude to. There are a lot of different elements that can go into the experience itself.
That is how it works. I work with you the same way I would work with a client I wanted to represent at their product launch or trade show and sell their widgets. I want to understand who is going to be at the trade show and why we want to sell the widgets. Helping me understand that helps me create a show that accomplishes that. It’s a similar process. I want to understand the story of the people that you serve and why and use this dramatic art to help stimulate that emotion for other people.
To do it in a theatrical way, it’s engaging, and it’s the way human beings come together. We come together at theaters. We come together at churches. We come together to go to concerts. This communal social gathering is a powerful thing; even on Zoom, it can be powerful. I can argue that it may be more or less powerful depending on other factors. But the point is we love to come together. When we do it to experience this dramatic moment together, that shared experience has value.
Hugh: I have been to quite a few events over the years. That includes church events. We get too much in a rut. These are the expectations. Sometimes they are too stuffy or formal. Sometimes people go out of a sense of obligation. What you’re helping me rethink is we don’t tell our story enough. We assume people know the story. We need to go back and speak about the why, give it a refresh, and give people a fresh start for reigniting their passion for it. I am seeing you interact with an audience and having a lot of fun doing it. People like to have fun.
Joe: What I will add, just to put a bow on the subject, is the reason magic works is that it’s a pattern interrupt. It surprises you. The world stops working the way you expect for a moment, and you’re delighted by this sudden change, this new thing that didn’t happen the way you expected. That’s what salespeople use to get people to remember. We remember the moments that stick out from the background noise. It’s difficult to remember the thing that is in the regular noise. The moments that stick out, those are our guideposts for what we remember and how we tell the story. Magic, by nature, is surprising, unusual, outside the ordinary experience. It’s a show that makes the world look and feel different than you expect. That is an automatic power interrupt. Tying a message to that is a very good way to ensure that it will be remembered long after a message that is more of the same. That is why it’s a good teaching tool, a good sales tool, a tool that gets people to remember the message you’re trying to convey, and this is why nonprofits should pay attention to it.
Hugh: It’s something I never thought about. I thought it would be something adjunct to this. What will people find when they go to your website or blog at TurnerMagic.com?
Joe: They will read things that occurred to me when I’m late for a plane or when I make a mistake and realize I can learn something from it. They might find my response to something I’ve read recently that either I agreed with or disagreed with. A recent blog I wrote was where I was reading in a magic text something that resonated with me, which I ultimately disagreed with the way it was framed, so I explained why. I try to think about the information I encounter and test it against my core beliefs and test my core beliefs against what I’m seeing and learning and experiencing. That is just how I live my life. That is what I do.
When you read my blog, you are going to see what I think. It’s not always, “Oh, let me show you this magic thing.” It might be. I posted a really cool audio illusion on my blog recently, where if you listen to this sound, but if you are reading a sentence that is different from the way it sounds, it changes the way you hear it. I love that as an illustration of what our preconceptions can do to our perceptions of what is happening around us. It’s that sort of thing. You’ll also find I’ll be moved to write something about a teacher that meant a lot to me. It’s a variety of things. Generally, I will try to draw a lesson out of it that you can take and apply to the way you communicate or do business.
Hugh: We are in the nonprofit world, which is really a bad word. It puts us into this scarcity thinking. We describe ourselves by what we’re not rather than what we are, what we could be, or what we desire to be. Joe, you have inspired me to think more in terms of possibility, spontaneity, surprise, and joy. You didn’t say any of those things, but my brain is firing on different cylinders.
Joe: I have worked with a lot of nonprofits. I just think that’s a terrible misrepresentation. You’re profiting people. it’s a different kind of profit. The profit is service profit or help profit or human profit. It doesn’t happen to be a financial profit. It’s not that you don’t produce profit. What does profit a man is not only about money. I agree with you. Don’t focus on what you’re not; focus on what you are.
You’re organizations that achieve goals for people. You meet needs and achieve objectives. That is business. That is doing business. It’s getting from here to there, making the exchanges and serving the people you need to and have to, using the skills and resources you have at your disposal. You accomplish whatever it is that you accomplish and those transactions are good. There is nothing wrong with making a financial profit or a human profit or a skill profit or a difference in someone’s life, a life profit. Those are all good things.
Hugh: Absolutely. That is the life blood of salaries and improvement in the service. We have to serve people, and it takes a little bit of cash flow to do that. Joe, you have inspired me to think differently not only about events, but we have to think about our story and how to find creative ways to get people to understand what is important about our story. I could imagine planning an event with you, and you helping me do this amazing event that engages people, and they are wondering what is coming next time. You have given us a lot of things to think about.
Before we end our podcast, do you have a thought or challenge or tip you want to leave people with today?
Joe: I’m going to go in a different direction with this. I shared this on my Twitter today. If you fill your home with pop culture and sports—both of which I love, so don’t get me wrong—but you do it to the exclusion of great works of literature and art and music, then you are shortchanging yourself and everyone under that roof. It is paying attention to those things, reading, studying, absorbing, listening to great things that cultivates an appreciation for excellence. My heart right now is challenging everyone to cultivate an appreciation of excellence in themselves. Don’t shame others about what they’re doing or not doing. By virtue of the example you set, challenge people to raise the level of their heart and intellect and thoughts. I think that if I had to give anyone a tip, it’s not a business tip. That’s the tip. I want our culture to be elevated. I think the benefit from doing that serves our children, our communities, our public discourse. That is my tip. If I had to make an ask of anybody watching, work on yourself. Elevate the culture by elevating yourself.
Hugh: Joe M. Turner, you can go to TurnerMagic.com. Thank you so much for your inspiration and story today.
Some additional comments from Jacque and Jeff. Do you want to share those?
Jacque Zoccoli: The pattern interrupt concept, Joe, is ingenious because we know that’s why people learn and how they learn. When you tie that to the cause that someone has, you’ve kept that memory in their mind for a much longer time than “Buy my product.” I honor you. I had not realized the talent to the large degree that you have shown us today. I would hope that this thought, this concept would bring another whole plateau, a place to explore for nonprofits. You’re right. This virtual entertainment is not going away. Take advantage of Joe. Thank you!
Joe: Thank you, Jacque. If I could tag onto that, the pattern interrupt concept is certainly not mine. It’s classical. But what I love about it is the fact that magic embodies it so wonderfully. The fundamental particle of magic is the pattern interrupt. Seeing that connect magic to the way we tell stories or sell things or engage people around an idea, that is the thing that is relatively new.
One of the other topics I speak on, which you alluded to, is memory training. I speak on pneumonic memory techniques. It’s exactly why we remember things. We remember the things that stick out from the background noise. There are techniques we can train ourselves to use that let us hack our brains in a way so that we put that principle to work on the things we want to remember that don’t seem like they break through the background noise. We can make them break through the background noise for our own purposes. Learning those techniques is another part of what I speak on. I want to put that out there. You happen to take the conversation right up over there, and I wanted to underline it.
Jacque: If you can do to all of what that cause is, think about- Let’s speak to memory. We’ll remember so-and-so nonprofit. What does that relate to? You could play that thing to the hilt. That’s cool.
Joe: I like the idea that if a nonprofit has three main initiatives or core values or reasons they do it, those are the three things. Those are the core of what they’re doing. Using magic to help people understand and remember that. When we have used magical experiences to underline those points, when people remember the show, they are automatically remembering the content. That is the big value. That is the takeaway.
Hugh: Absolutely. And there is a good feeling with that memory. Jeffrey, what were you thinking about?
Jeffrey Fulgham: I was thinking about the very last thing Joe said, when you said you were going in a different direction. I thought everything you said before then was great, but when you said that, that really hit me. I look at this very much the same way. I look at how we have gotten to a point of idolizing sports and pop culture to a point of, I’ll just use the word “disgust,” and with very little virtue in it. Then you mention all of the things that wouldn’t it be great if we could focus on some of those other things and watch how people change and how their perspective changes, how their hope can change? How different would it be if people, could you imagine if they could change it a lot, even if someone took 10% or a quarter of the time that they put in those two things and shifted it over? How dramatically would things change in every sphere that we talk about every day?
Jeffrey: Only 1%. The 1% per day for a year is this massive change over time. It doesn’t even have to be 10%. It could barely be perceptible. I am going to push back on you a little bit. I don’t want to give anybody the idea that I’m stepping on their sports fan. Mississippi State won the college World Series a couple weeks ago, and I’m still on cloud nine because of that. I love to shout and scream and ring my cowbell and cheer for my team. I love that energy. I watched a pop culture movie on Netflix yesterday. It’s not like I’m trying to undervalue- I have worked in academic situations where there was resentment of the money that goes into this and the amount of attention that goes into that. I get it. There are reasons people feel that way. I’m kind of in a both/and situation. It’s okay to have that, but if it’s to the exclusion of every other type of human achievement, then you’re missing out.
Hugh: It’s not either/or. What you’re doing is bringing that kind of energy into another arena.
Joe: I love it. I read in the ‘80s. I was a freshman in college. I read The Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom and Cultural Literacy by E.D. Hirsch and other great books that are now ancient in terms. The idea of cultural literacy, the amount of shared knowledge that a culture has is important in how it’s unified and the way you can communicate across the silos within that culture. We have sadly lost that. If someone makes a reference to Michelangelo, people should be able to recognize it. I don’t think a lot of people do. You should be able to refer to Maya Angelou and Michelangelo, and people should be able to get both references.
Hugh: That is so critical. I want to give Bob some airtime here. Bob has inspired many students in the classroom for many years. He has inspired many adults as well. Bob, what did you have to say?
Bob Hopkins: I love it. We need magic. I need magic in my classroom. I teach college on Zoom and face-to-face every once in a while. I have them play charades. I teach communications, so it’s a great way for me to have them do communications because they can get up and about.
Let me ask you this because I think it’s amazing, and I’m going to use it or you. Do you teach us to do it, or do you actually have to come to every event that we do?
Joe: I have taught people. I have taught private lessons over the years. I have coached leaders who were being put into a special situation on how to do something magical at that moment. I have been approached about doing something that would be along the lines of a magic for trainers and educators as a course. I haven’t written the course, but maybe I should. Maybe you can help me get me in gear and do that. You’re not the first person to ask me that question. Maybe that’s my sign that I need to create-
Bob: I teach 1,000 students in 20 different classes every year. I can’t have you come to every class, but I would like to do the same thing over and over again to get people interested and excited about coming to class.
Joe: Connect on LinkedIn. We could figure something out, a neat project that would be of value to you. There are all kinds of magic from fairly easy things, like portable things, to more advanced things or mathematical things you can do in training and teaching environments. You have hit on something I need to explore.
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